We've talked about fear recently in my classes and how worry cannot add anything to our lives, only subtract and make us miserable. The following is about one of the first times I felt real fear in my life. It's March 5, 2011.
One thing I'm increasingly grateful for is that my parents made us kids work. We always had chores around the house from the time we were little. As we got older, we were strongly encouraged to find jobs that made money, lessening reliance on any allowance. In a small rural Nebraska town, those employment options were plentiful. I started carrying the Lincoln Journal-Star newspaper in about fifth grade. That was sandwiched around raking leaves, shoveling snow, mowing grass, and every Nebraska kids' favorite task, detassling corn. Entering high school, I embarked on a four year career at one of the local food stores, Jack And Jill, where I advanced from carrying out groceries to running the cash register to being semi-in charge when the bosses stepped out. As time went by, I also worked on the maintenance crew at York College and coached American Legion baseball, a Midwestern institution, in the summer. In Houston, it's much more difficult for a child to have any sort of the labor experiences I was blessed with. Funny, I rarely viewed them as blessings at the time.
My parents were frugal, to put it mildly. Each Sunday, they bought an Omaha World Herald newspaper, the largest publication in the state. It was huge and cost a quarter! (Do you know what I remember? The Sunday funnies, in color, especially Dick Tracy!) But my folks didn't throw the paper away when they were finished. Instead, they gave it to a family in our church, the Thoms. Guess who the delivery boy was? Every Monday, beginning when I was five years old, I would carry the World-Herald to the Thoms who lived about five blocks away. I can still retrace the route in my mind; south on Kiplinger, turn right on Ninth Street, cross Blackburn and Elmer Avenues, and there was the Thom's house, about the tenth house on the block on the right. I could probably walk it in five minutes or so ... but I left something out. Between Blackburn and Elmer, on a grassy lot, was a water tower, the biggest thing I had ever seen. It's no exaggeration to say it terrified me. When I gazed skyward, I was sure it was about to fall so I sprinted past it as fast as I could. There was no alternative route. You know, I don't know when I overcame my fear but I do know it never toppled over and sent me prematurely to my final destination. If only I'd known that when I was five.
It isn't there anymore. Some time after my parents moved to Texas in the latter part of the 1970's, that source of dread in my life was dismantled and removed. I don't know if it was no longer functional or an eyesore but a recreation of my route today, courtesy of Google Earth, shows an empty lot where that water tower stood. (It also showed a guy walking down the sidewalk. Wonder if they have his consent?) Fear can dominate our life if we allow it. I doubt I ever told my mom or dad that I was terrified to make the trip to the Thoms. My guess is that they would have made me face up to my anxiety but I bet they would have walked with me, at least once, to show there was nothing to worry about. Age doesn't always diminish our fears although it may redefine them. We always have an ally. David worded it best in his 23rd Psalm when he proclaimed he would fear no evil, because the Father was with him, even in the valley of the shadow of death. The shadow I feared back then came from a water tower which now seems tremendously silly. Someday, the things that make my heart afraid now will seem equally childish. I have to remind myself that the Father walks with big boys- and girls- just like He does with little children. We can stop our running anytime; the Lord is holding our tower up or maybe He's shielding us from the fallout. Maybe He's letting us survive some struggles to make us stronger. I was never alone when delivering the paper; the Father was there by my side. He is still is but now, He's delivering me from evil.
Applicable quote of the day:
“You can milk a cow the wrong way once and still be a farmer, but vote the wrong way on a water tower and you can be in trouble”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
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